Australian Special Forces & Afghanistan war vet
Benjamin Roberts-Smith Australian Army SAS Regiment is a recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia (VC), the highest award in the Australian honours system. The Victoria Cross in 2011, together with his Medal for Gallantry awarded in 2006, made Roberts-Smith the most highly decorated serving member of the Australian Defence Force. He was also awarded a Commendation for Distinguished Service for his leadership as a patrol commander in 2012.
Medal for Gallantry
On May 31, 2006, Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith was employed as a patrol scout and sniper in a patrol which was tasked with establishing an observation post near the Chora Pass … On the 2nd of June, the observation post had become the focus of the Anti Coalition Militia force and repeated attempts to locate and surround the position ensued. In one particular incident the Militia attempted to outflank the observation post. … Roberts-Smith was part of a two man team tasked to move out of their relatively secure observation post in order to locate and neutralise the Militia and regain the initiative. This task was successfully achieved.
In another incident, two Anti Coalition Militia attempted to attack the observation post from a different flank, … Roberts-Smith again moved to support and neutralise one of these Militia. … Roberts-Smith then realised that the forward edge of the observation post was not secure and made the decision to split the team and take up an exposed position forward of the patrol so he could effectively employ his sniper weapon. Whilst isolated, and in his precarious position, he observed a group of sixteen Anti-Coalition Militia advancing across open ground towards the observation post. … Roberts-Smith effectively employed his sniper rifle to stop their advance whilst receiving very accurate small arms fire from another group of Militia to his flank. … Roberts-Smith maintained the initiative and ensured that his patrol remained secure by holding this position without support for twenty minutes. He was eventually reinforced by his original team member and together they continued to hold off the Militia advance for a further twenty minutes until offensive air support arrived.
On 11 June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault into Tizak, Kandahar Province, in order to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.
Immediately upon the helicopter insertion, the troop was engaged by machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from multiple, dominating positions. Two soldiers were wounded in action and the troop was pinned down by fire from three machine guns in an elevated fortified position to the south of the village. Under the cover of close air support, suppressive small arms and machine gun fire, Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol manoeuvred to within 70 metres of the enemy position in order to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions and regain the initiative.
Upon commencement of the assault, the patrol drew very heavy, intense, effective and sustained fire from the enemy position. … Roberts-Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40 metres, the weight of fire prevented further movement forward. At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure.
As he approached the structure, … Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. … Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns. Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, … Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners.
His act of valour enabled his patrol to break-in to the enemy position and to lift the weight of fire from the remainder of the troop who had been pinned down by the machine gun fire. On seizing the fortified gun position, … Roberts-Smith then took the initiative again and continued to assault enemy positions in depth during which he and another patrol member engaged and killed further enemy. His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village of Tizak of Taliban. This decisive engagement subsequently caused the remainder of the Taliban in Shah Wali Kot District to retreat from the area.
A hero with some controversy:
In 2017, Roberts-Smith’s actions in Afghanistan came under scrutiny in light of an independent inquiry into “questions of unlawful conduct concerning (Australia’s) Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan.” Since June 2018, Roberts-Smith has been the subject of a war crimes investigation by the Australian Federal Police. In August 2018, Roberts-Smith, with assistance from a legal team, commenced to fight back against the allegations with a defamation lawsuit against Nine Entertainment publications. The trial commenced in June 2021 in the Federal Court in Sydney.